NN-EXPLORE Proposals

NN-EXPLORE Proposals Invited for the WIYN 3.5m, the CTIO 1.5m with CHIRON, and MINERVA-Australis in 2023B

NASA and NSF have a Partnership for Exoplanet Research to support community use of the NOIRLab share of WIYN telescope time, the CTIO SMARTS 1.5m telescope, and the MINERVA-Australis Exoplanet Observatory. The NASA-NSF Exoplanet Observational Research (NN-EXPLORE) program seeks to advance the understanding of exoplanets and exoplanetary systems in areas of mutual interest to both agencies.  There are approximately 50 nights available on the WIYN telescope, 300 hours (equivalent to 30 nights) on the CTIO SMARTS 1.5m telescope, and 300 hours (equivalent to 30 nights) on MINERVA-Australis.

NN-EXPLORE solicits observing proposals targeted to general exoplanet-related research, with emphasis on supporting observations for NASA missions, including but not limited to Kepler, K2, TESS, HST, and JWST. The scope of the NN-EXPLORE Program includes observations to:

  • Confirm or validate exoplanet candidates
  • Characterize known exoplanets and exoplanetary systems
  • Characterize the (exozodiacal) dust environments of exoplanet-hosting or potentially-exoplanet-hosting stars
  • Explore the formation, evolution, and diversity of exoplanetary systems

Stellar observations to characterize stellar properties and search for background eclipsing binaries fall within the scope of the NN-EXPLORE Program, providing the relevance of the proposed work to the exoplanet-research focus of the Program is clearly established. NN-EXPLORE proposals will be evaluated by a special Time Allocation Committee (TAC). The same TAC will evaluate WIYN, CHIRON, and MINERVA-Australis proposals.

Unless specifically identified as long-term, programs are awarded time only for a single semester. For both long-term and single-semester programs, if a program is incomplete due to weather, instrument, or observatory technical issues, or natural events (e.g., fire, flood, etc.) the observing time will not roll over to future semesters. Observers will need to re-apply to make up for lost time.

New for 2023B: Long-term programs

Starting in 2023B, NN-EXPLORE accepts proposals for large, long-term programs, defined as those that require between 2 and 4 semesters. A maximum of 8 nights per semester will be made available in total for all long-term programs. The intent is to select more than one long-term program, with selections based on science merit.

Long-term status may be requested when the science cannot be achieved within a single semester.  An investigator who wishes to request long-term status should include a summary of the request (e.g., "six nights per semester for three semesters" or "3 nights every other semester") in the appropriate section of the proposal form. Long-term proposals are limited to four semesters. To facilitate scheduling, proposers should consider requesting the lowest queue-priority levels necessary to achieve their science. 

If the time is granted, a progress report must be submitted each subsequent semester to inform the TAC that appropriate progress is being made. Progress reports should briefly summarize the scientific justification, provide a detailed discussion of progress to date, restate the number of observing runs still needed to complete the project, and give details needed for scheduling the proposal in the next semester. The reports should be sent before the proposal deadline to proposal-help@noirlab.edu.

Although the granting of long-term status by the TAC does carry with it a commitment for observing time in future semesters, NN-EXPLORE reserves the right to terminate long-term status on the advice of the TAC if insufficient information concerning the progress of the project has been supplied by the Principal Investigator or in the event of telescope closures.

WIYN Proposals

On behalf of the NASA-NSF partnership NN-EXPLORE, NOIRLab hereby requests observing proposals for the 2023B semester on the WIYN telescope.

Limited funding support for WIYN observing, sufficient to cover travel, modest research
expenses, and publications costs, will be provided by NASA to observers under the NN-
EXPLORE Program. The amount of funding will be determined formulaically based on the number of awards and the available funding. Proposals must provide an explicit justification for the relevance of the proposed observations to the scientific goals of the Program. Proposals that fall outside the scope of the Program will not be eligible to receive Guest Observer funding.  Funding support will be restricted to observers from US institutions.

For the 2023B semester, the complete NOIRLab share of WIYN will be available for the NN-EXPLORE program, depending on the time requested and the quality of proposals.   NN-EXPLORE proposals will be reviewed and selected by a special panel of the NOIRLab Time Allocation Committee (TAC). While proposals for non-exoplanet research will be accepted in 2023B for WIYN, these will be eligible for scheduling only if there is time available after the approved exoplanet proposals are scheduled. There will be no Guest Observer funding for non-exoplanet proposals that are granted time on the telescope.

The following are the instruments offered at WIYN in 2023B (see current status and more
information on the WIYN status page at http://www.wiyn.org/Observe/wiynstatus.html):

  • NEID is a cutting edge high-precision spectrograph at WIYN designed for radial velocity measurements of exoplanet host stars. NEID is designed with a goal of achieving 27 cm/s precision per data point, providing the US exoplanet community with high-precision radial velocity measurements appropriate for studying Earth and super-Earth mass planets orbiting bright host stars over a wide range of spectral type.  Detailed information on NEID can be found at:   https://www.wiyn.org/Instruments/wiynneid_call.html. A library of NEID refereed papers is available at: 
    https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/public-( libraries/blugug7cTGSe17IsrLKHKQ
  • Hydra (https://www.wiyn.org/Instruments/wiynhydra.html) is a multi-object fiber positioner for ~100 fibers over a 60 arcmin field. It feeds the Bench Spectrograph. Hydra currently offers 90 red fibers (diameter 2.0 arcsec) or 83 blue fibers (diameter 3.1 arcsec) and has 10 Field Orientation Probes (FOPS) for guiding.
  • Integral Field Units (IFUs) include:                                                                       

SparsePak contains 82 fibers that are 5 arcsec on the sky and arranged in a dense core surrounded by a sparse array. HexPak and GradPak are unique variable pitch IFUs, designed to sample the brightest parts of galaxies with small fibers (0.94 arcsec) and the fainter parts with larger fibers (5.6 arcsec). All IFUs feed the Bench Spectrograph. SparsePak is a facility instrument, but HexPak and GradPak are P.I. instruments. Prospective proposers should contact the P.I. (Matthew Bershady) at mab@astro.wisc.edu. See the WIYN status page (https://www.wiyn.org/Observe/wiynstatus.html) for details.

  • The fiber-fed Bench Spectrograph (https://www.wiyn.org/Instruments/wiynbench.html  is configurable from low (R~800) to high (R~25,000) spectral resolution covering windows over the full optical band, 350 - 1000 nm.
  • ODI (https://www.wiyn.org/ODI/index.html) provides high spatial resolution imaging over a wide field that takes full advantage of WIYN's excellent delivered image quality. ODI is an optical imager with 0.11 arcsec pixels, recently upgraded to a 40 x 48 arcmin field of view. The current full field of view filter set includes SDSS u', g', r', i', z', and four narrow-band filters (NB422, NB695, NB746 and H-alpha).  The smaller Mosaic filters are no longer available with ODI due to the full complement of permanently mounted, large ODI filters. 
  • The WIYN High Resolution Infrared Camera (WHIRC: https://noirlab.edu/science/programs/kpno/instruments/whirc) is a near infrared imager with a 3.3 arcmin field of view and 0.1 arcsec pixels. Filters available for use include J, H, Ks, and 10 narrow bands. WHIRC will not be offered on 2023B
  • The NASA Exoplanet Star (and) Speckle Imager, or NESSI (https://www.wiyn.org/Instruments/wiynnessi.html) utilizes two electron multiplying CCD cameras to capture speckle images in two colors simultaneously. The images obtained reach the diffraction limit of the telescope and enable searches for and differential astrometry on binaries with delta magnitudes of up to 5 and separations between 0.05 and 1.3 arcsec. NESSI has remote controlled filter wheels in each beam, split by the dichroic at 685 nm. The EMCCDs can operate with high sensitivity and low noise even at very fast readout rates (up to 30 MHz), providing high time resolution.  NESSI also introduces a new "wide-field" mode that enables the collection of images with fields of >50 arcseconds. Each 6-slot filter wheel includes two narrow-band speckle filters, two standard SDSS filters, and two empty slots. An updated, user-friendly software interface is included as well. Final reduced reconstructed images will be provided to the PI after the run for exoplanet speckle projects. See Howell et al., 2011, AJ, 142, 19H, Scott et al., SPIE presentation June 2016.

CTIO SMARTS 1.5m with CHIRON Proposals

NN-EXPLORE also requests observing proposals for the 2023B semester on the SMARTS 1.5m telescope to utilize the CHIRON spectrograph.  CHIRON is a highly stable cross-dispersed echelle spectrometer that is fiber-fed and intended primarily for precise radial velocity measurements.  In addition to the observing time available through the nominal NOIRLab community access, there are 300 hours (approximately 30 nights) available for observations utilizing the CHIRON spectrograph for exoplanet science, as described before.

Information on CHIRON can be found at http://www.astro.gsu.edu/~thenry/SMARTS/ .

Data is acquired in queue mode so no travel support will be available to the observers under this portion of the program.  Raw echellegram images and calibration files, as well as final processed 1-D extracted wavelength-calibrated spectra will be provided to the PI.

More information can be requested by contacting Dr. Todd Henry (thenry@astro.gsu.edu).

MINERVA-Australis Proposals

As part of the NN-EXPLORE program, NASA's partnership with the MINERVA-Australis consortium (https://minerva-australis.org/ ) will make 300 hours of observing time on the facility available to the US community.  This time will be allocated exclusively to exoplanet science research, as described before.

MINERVA-Australis is a dedicated exoplanet observatory operated by the University of
Southern Queensland (USQ) in Queensland, Australia. The facility is located at USQ's Mt. Kent Observatory and saw first light in quarter two 2018; commissioning of the facility was completed in mid-2019.  MINERVA-Australis currently consists of 4 (0.7m) PlaneWave CDK700 telescopes; these telescopes have two ports, allowing each to be used for either spectroscopic or photometric observations.

A summary of the facility and its capabilities can be found in the commissioning paper by
Addison et al. 2019 (https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2019PASP..131k5003A and at
https://nexsci.caltech.edu/missions/Minerva/).  The photometric channel is capable of milli-magnitude precision and currently, the light from four telescopes can be combined onto one R=75,000 echelle spectrograph for radial velocity precisions of 1 - 10 m/s depending on the target brightness.

Proposals of all sizes are encouraged, from single night to large programs in support of
observations of single targets or large surveys.

Restrictions of the Call for MINERVA-Australis

As with the other elements in the NN-EXPLORE call, the 300 hours available for 2023B on MINERVA-Australis are intended for exoplanet research. Observing time will be allocated in hours and must include all science and calibration observations necessary to accomplish the science.  More information can be obtained by contacting David Ciardi at NExScI (ciardi@ipac.caltech.edu) or Rob Wittenmyer at University of Southern Queensland (Rob.Wittenmyer@usq.edu.au).

As the MINERVA-Australis is a scientific consortium, there are a set of restrictions by which proposers must abide:

  • The MINERVA-Australis has listed a set of “Collaboration Targets,” which are a set of  targets that the collaboration is observing (see https://drive.google.com/file/d/1M4ee7qRmhMoldLqbngZD7qXMOQSzZvhV/view?usp=shari g__;!!PvBDto6Hs4WbVuu7!bQiLiXo3BVwkHQbR0BcXUQQTSbPCmfGjwn_M_AxEcZRAS) “Collaboration Targets” can be proposed for observation through the NASA time if the proposal principal investigator forms a collaboration with MINERVA-Australis or the proposer and the MINERVA-Australis collaboration member come to a mutual agreement regarding the proposed observations. Contact Rob Wittenmyer at University of Southern Queensland (Rob.Wittenmyer@usq.edu.au) if you are interested in observing “Collaboration Targets.”
  • Observations will be made, on behalf of the NASA observers, in queue-mode by the MINERVA-Australis team.
  • The MINERVA-Australis team will deliver the proposer’s raw data, 1D extracted spectra, and radial velocities (if desired by the proposer).
  • Data obtained for US community observers will be archived at NExScI through the ExoFOP service.  Archived data will have the option to have a maximum 12-month proprietary period.
  • Any publications arising from the utilization of NASA time on MINERVA-Australis are subject to the main MINERVA-Australis publication policy regarding the inclusion of the listed Architects and Builders [please contact Rob.Wittenmyer@usq.edu.au] and must acknowledge the NN-EXPLORE Program.

Proposing for NN-EXPLORE Time

GO proposals should be submitted using the standard NSF OIR Lab Observing Proposal Dashboard (https://time-allocation.noirlab.edu/#/proposal/create/) by selecting "NASA Exoplanet TAC" as the proposal type on the login page.  Deadline for NN-EXPLORE proposals is the same as for the NOIRLab proposals.

Please include this acknowledgment for publications resulting from NN-EXPLORE telescope time: "Data presented herein were obtained at the WIYN Observatory, or the CTIO SMARTS 1.5m, or MINERVA-Australis from telescope time allocated to NN-EXPLORE through the scientific partnership of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the NOIRLab."

Updated on March 2, 2023, 8:29 am